Climate change affects rice farming communities, too


Climate change is one of the most pressing issues globally, and Philippines is particularly impacted by threats from fiercer typhoons, flooding, droughts and landslides. It has a direct impact on the country’s agriculture and on the livelihood of farmers, too.


Rice farming for one is highly impacted by the changing climate which have a ripple effect on the country’s rice productivity and forcing rice farmers to move elsewhere for alternative livelihood.


In a study conducted by researchers from the Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia (EEPSEA), an organization supporting training and research in environmental and resource economics, finds that a weather-related decline in rice productivity can reduce the number of farmers working in the field and opt to look for jobs elsewhere.


“ It is important that policymakers recognize that poor farming families will be worse off since they are more income vulnerable and food insecure, and they will have fewer opportunities to diversify their income,” the study entitled, “Does Climate Change Drive Migration? A study from the Philippines”. The EEPSEA study said. “These households should be targeted for training on crop diversification, as this will lessen their vulnerability to productivity losses due to climate change.”


The research, which was based on its assessment from 1995 to 2009, aims to provide information for a fact that the impact of climate change in rice yields resonated on migration of farmers and their families. It was conducted by Flordeliza Bordey, Cheryll Launio and Eduardo Jimmy Quilang from the Philippine Rice Research Institute, Mae Tolentino from the University of the Philippines Los Banos, and Nimfa Ogena from the University of the Philippines Population Institute.


During the drought period, rice yield decreased by 64 kilos per hectare per one degree increase in temperature. Similarly, rice yields diminished by 36 kilos per hectare for every one percent increase during rainy season. The average gross income per hectare was also impacted by an increase in wet days by P356.00 per hectare, the study assessed.


The linkages between weather, rice yields and migration is shown by what happened from 1995 to 2009. During this period, the five-year average dry season minimum temperature increased by 0.93°( leading to a 60 kg/ha decline in the five-year rice yield average. Similarly, the share of wet days in a year rose by 3.8 percentage points and caused a 136 kg/ha decrease in yield.


With this assessment of the study, it said that the country lost about 742,000 metric tons of rice or Php5.14 billion from 1995 to 2009 due to weather changes. As a result, about 99,000 to 102,000 individuals migrated overseas, among whom 57% were female. In comparison, about 19,000 individuals were not able to migrate inter-regionally due to Php1,352 reduction in gross revenue per hectare.


Changes in rice yield and gross revenue per hectare significantly affected overseas migration, the study stressed. More migrants from the Philippines are heading abroad. This is due to the higher wages they can get. For example, a household helper working abroad can receive as much as Php20,000 per month whereas, for similar work in Metro Manila, he or she can only earn a minimum wage of about Php2,500 monthly.

“ A likely explanation for the impact of rice yields on domestic migration is that domestic migrants are more likely to come from poorer households who cannot afford the money to send family members abroad. As a decline in rice yield or gross revenue will have a greater impact on poorer households it will therefore have a greater constraining impact on those who would be sending people to work locally,” the study stressed.

The study further said that one potentially positive outcome of the increase in overseas migrants is that higher levels of remittances are expected to flow back to rural areas. This could potentially revolutionize the agricultural financing system in rural areas. Specifically, the increase in liquidity could provide the capital needed to adopt new technologies, counter the negative effects of climate change, and improve rice productivity in the long-run.

Research and development as well can provide technology options for farmers to address climate change and its effect on rice yield and their income.


photo credit: IVAbano

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